Spain: Casillas; Manuel Pablo, Abelardo, Hierro,
Sergi; Mendieta, Iván Helguera, Gerard (Baraja 30'), Munitis;
Raúl (Guerrero 87'), Urzaiz (Catanha 71'). 4-4-2.
Israel: Davidovich; Alfon, Talka, Benado, Keisi; Shelah; Tal, Badeer (Berkovic 71'), Nimmy (Benyoun 65'), Revivo; Mizrahi. 4-1-4-1.
1-0. 22. Gerard. Slid ball past keeper after Urzaiz chested down Mendieta's pass.
2-0. 53. Hierro. Following up after Urzaiz header from corner cleared off line.
'La selección' finally returned to Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium for the first time since April 1988. Queues formed all week to see this game, and a capacity 75,000 crowd was assured, although the last tickets only went the day before the game. My friend and fellow reporter Goran Arsic and I got ours a few days ago, and as a Catalan (from my mother's side) I was delighted to see the prices were very cheap. This being a game against Israel, security was tight, and we finally took our seats after extensive checks. The weather was good for once. "It's nice out", said Goran to the man sitting next to him. "Yes, but put it away before someone sees it", he replied. "What?", said Goran, and then he realized. He had sneaked in his goatskin "porra" containing red wine down the front of his underpants to avoid detection, and the spout had somehow worked it's way out of his flies. "Oops, now I know why those girls were looking at me so strangely outside, and I just thought they liked my rugged good looks".
Anyway, after the necessary adjustments were made in the 'gents' we check out the team-sheets. With Etxeberria out injured, Mendieta played in his natural position on the right of midfield, and the rest of midfield and attack was known a few days ago. The surprises came in defence, and although Hierro was always expected to play, the other three, Manuel Pablo, Abelardo and Sergi were not expected by many observers to be in the starting line up. Most of the Israel side were unknown, but there were two ex 'Spaniards' in the team, Tal who played last season in Mérida and Revivo, who was at Celta Vigo. Revivo turned up with white boots, which went down well with the Real Madrid supporters.
In the first minute of the game Israel's striker Mizrahi got clear in front of Casillas after a pass from those white boots, and should have buried the ball in the back of the net. However he amazingly put his shot wide, and Spain were let off the hook. Gradually they got back in the game, and halfway through the first half Gerard gave Spain the lead after Urzaiz chested down Mendieta's long ball into his path. The Barça midfielder controlled the ball and slid it past Davidovich with the outside of his foot for his second goal in two games for his country. A few minutes later though he limped off the field with a pulled muscle, and will miss next Wednesday's game against Austria in Vienna. Baraja came on for his debut, and together with his Valencia captain Mendieta, (who was playing with a light cast on his two broken fingers), dominated the middle of the pitch.
Spain went further ahead early in the second half after Mendieta's corner was headed goalwards by Urzaiz. Although the defence headed it off the line, Hierro followed up to blast the ball past Davidovich. It was the Madrid captain's 24th goal for his country, taking him above Di Stefano to second place in the all time Spanish goalscorers table, only two now behind Butragueño. Revivo could have scored on a couple of occasions but so could Raúl, with Davidovich just tipping his header onto the bar, then watching helplessly a few minutes later as the Madrid striker's clever chip floated over him and against the post. Catanha came on for Urzaiz to make his debut for his new country just two weeks after obtaining his Spanish passport and could have scored immediately, but he misjudged the cross from the left and headed over the bar. With a few minutes to go Camacho rested Raúl, bringing on Julen Guerrero, and after two minutes of time added on referee Colombo of France blew the final whistle. Spain had repeated their victory of a year ago against Israel, and move to the top of the table on six points from two matches.
After the match Goran offered me a drink from his porra. "No thanks" I said. It had been too close to his private area for me. A friend of mine José runs a clothes shop. The other day he said to me, "It's funny you know, Borja,I have underpants in packs of twelve, and everyone comes in and orders seven. I wonder why?". "Easy", I tell him, "there's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc.". And so he went off and repacked them in groups of seven. A week later Goran comes in to José's shop. "A dozen pairs of underpants please, José". "Why a dozen?" asked José. "Well, there's January, February, March.....".